Clutter Is Relative

A man at work behind a desk stacked with papers, staring at a computer monitor. Peter Crabtree takes us inside the den of a newspaper editor and renaissance writer in a Californian desert city.

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Albert Einstein once (allegedly) said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” If true, we can appreciate the state of Kurt Schauppner’s desk at The Desert Trail, a weekly paper in Twentynine Palms, California. Schauppner not only edits the paper, a formidable job unto itself, he is also a novelist, songwriter, poet and screenplay writer.

Peter Crabtree photographed Schauppner in the editor’s natural habitat: deep in thought, maybe trying to understand how anyone could argue against the Oxford comma. Crabtree traveled the countryside photographing small town newspapers, which we are running in a series called ‘Newsprint,’  He remembers this shoot well:

Kurt Schauppner is the editor of The Desert Trail in Twentynine Palms, California. He was wary at first about being photographed and questioned me about an email I had sent explaining that I wanted to “create a visual record of an industry in a time of change.” His publisher feared I had a dim view of the future for community newspapers. But when I assured him that wasn’t the case, he consented. What I came away with is one of my favorite photos in the Newsprint series: a portrait of a man in deep concentration amid chaos.

The Desert Palm is published and delivered to its 3,400 subscribers every Thursday.

Twentynine Palms is a city of around 25,000 people in California’s San Bernardino County, in the southeastern part of the state. The “desert” in the paper’s name is not decorative. The city sits in the Mojave Desert, and is just north of Joshua Tree National Park, which sees 140,000 tourists pass through every year. In fact, there’s one gateway to the park in Twentynine Palms, the Oasis of Mara. The Oasis of Mara, according to legend, is where Serrano Indians planted the 29 palm trees that eventually gave the city its name.

As of the 2010 census, there were just shy of 8,100 households in Twentynine Palms.

 

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